Ultimate Presidents, Classic Deaths

SPOILER WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for "AvX" #11, on sale now.

Fridays on CBR mean Axel's In Charge.

Welcome to MARVEL A-I-C: AXEL-IN-CHARGE, CBR's regular interview feature with Marvel Comics Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso!

An editor with years of experience who's brought out comics to both critical acclaim and best-selling status, Alonso stepped into the chair at the top of Marvel's Editorial department earlier this year and since then has been working to bring his signature stylings to the entire Marvel U. Anchored by regular question and answer rounds with the denizens of the CBR Message Boards, each week Alonso will shake things up with special guest stars, exclusive art reveals and more!

This week, Axel is back for a behind the scenes look at two of the biggest Marvel news items of the month. First up, he describes the challenges and bonuses of making Ultimate Captain America president as part of the "Divided We Fall" story -- especially during an election year. Then he gives the full back story on Professor X's death in "AvX" #11. And he looks into future waves of Marvel NOW! news while answering your questions on the future. Read on!

Kiel Phegley: We had some big Captain America news hit this week that involved politics even though it wasn't necessarily political as it was revealed that Ultimate Cap will become President of the U.S. I kind of felt like it was convenient that you went on vacation just before a story that might get the political types riled up came along.

Axel Alonso: [Laughs] I figured what safer place to be than in France. Although the concierge at my hotel -- a nice young man named Julian -- actually recognized me and said he'd just read "AvX" and loved it, so maybe not so safe.

But tell me how this story came across for Editorial. It definitely strikes on the zeitgeist surrounding the actual presidential election. When you get pitched a story like that, do you have to tackle it in a different way than any other major shift in a title's status quo?

Alonso: The temptation to make Captain America the President of the United States is always there -- I mean, who's a more attractive Presidential candidate than a guy dressed head to toe in red, white and blue? But the reason we pulled the trigger this time is because this story just made sense at this particular juncture. The Ultimate Universe is in complete turmoil and Cap, reeling from what he sees as his responsibility for the death of Peter Parker, has dropped of the grid. Is there a better motivator for him to get back in the saddle than a leaderless United States being torn apart by opportunists? Wouldn't Americans be inspired by the sight of Cap on the frontlines and respond to this?

The fact that this is an election year only makes the story timelier. There are a lot of questions that arise during an election year that transcend partisan politics. What do Americans want from their President? What exactly is the contract between the President and the people? Cap is the perfect character for us to explore these questions -- in between panels where he and the Ultimates kick ass! [Laughs]

So what you're saying is that no matter who wins between Obama and Romney, Marvel is not necessarily advocating for the president to just punch dissidents out?

Alonso: Absolutely not. [Laughs] Cap isn't a Democrat or a Republican. His Presidency is something that both Obama and Romney would aspire to. It transcends politics.

When the Ultimate Universe launched, it was very much in line with the classic "world outside your window" of the Marvel U just with a more modern bent. As we've heard more and more over the past year or so about the line becoming a place where anything can happen that you'll never see in the main Marvel comics, does making the stories seem more relatable to our world become harder to keep in focus?

Alonso: To maintain creative distance from the Marvel Universe, the Ultimate universe needs to take creative chances. It's not enough to just bend things in the Ultimate Universe -- you've got to break them. Peter Parker is a concrete example: He's dead and he's not coming back. That said, the Ultimate line can't become too funhouse mirror or it loses relevancy to the reader. It has to echo the world outside the reader's window. Call me crazy, but I think that some of the problems the Ultimate Universe America faces echo the real world. It's just that these problems are souped up on steroids.

Another, smaller piece of news for the week has been Marvel's release of some teasers for the upcoming "Point One NOW!" one-shot revealing some of the specific creative teams we'll see in that issue, and the results have some variety. For example, I don't think anyone's surprised to see Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness working on a new "Nova" story, but at the same time, the Nick Spencer/Luke Ross collaboration remains a bit of a mystery. Overall, what can you tell us about the function of these stories? Will they each lead to new series coming in Marvel NOW?

Alonso: If it wasn't important to the Marvel Universe in 2013, it wouldn't be in the book. Simple as that. Every single story offers a glimpse of someone or something of great relevance to the Marvel Universe.

We've had two major waves of Marvel NOW! announcements so far, and we know a third is coming at New York Comic Con. Is that the end of the relaunch for the most part, or will there be a fourth wave of titles to follow?

Alonso: There's more to come. We have several big announcements at New York Comic Con.

Swinging back to immediate story news, "AvX" will wrap next week with issue #12. When we first started this column, you had to play things more close to the vest as Marvel worked its way towards that event, but since it was announced, I get the feeling you've had a lot more latitude to change things up and talk about what's coming. Overall, how do you feel about how "AvX" has been as a standard-bearer for the line in your time as E-i-C?

Alonso: "AvX" was an experiment, a gamble. A group of creators coming together to tell a truly Universe-wide event on an accelerated schedule. Not only did it pay off in spades -- creatively and financially -- it provided the game-changing platform for what's coming next in Marvel NOW!

I'm proud of, and grateful for, the work Brian [Bendis], Jason [Aaron], Jonathan [Hickman], Matt [Fraction], Ed [Brubaker], JR JR, Olivier [Coipel] and Adam [Kubert] put into it. This team was truly more than the sum of its parts. The story read as a cohesive whole, but each issue bore the stamp of the individual writer and artist. They owned them, you know? That we're on a seventh printing of issue #1 says it all. And the orders on "Uncanny Avengers" #1 clearly show that people are curious to see what comes next.

We haven't had a chance to talk about the death of Professor Xavier yet, but that seems to me like the big moment from the series. How did that moment come about, and what made it the right catalyst to make the change you thought this event needed to deliver?

Alonso: Well, I wouldn't call Professor X's death the big moment in "AvX." More like one of the big moments in the story.

How'd it happen? It made sense that one or more X-Men characters that were close to Scott -- Xavier, Magneto, Logan, Hope, Wanda, Beast -- would make a last-ditch appeal to him, to try to get through to the Scott they knew. We knew that. And we knew it wouldn't go well. That there'd be bloodshed or death, one of those crystallizing moments where everyone -- particularly the reader -- knew there would be no going back.

You mentioned wanted to land the right writers on the right issues of the event. Brian Bendis is taking over the X-Franchise with "All-New X-Men" and he wrote this pivotal death scene. Was that a part of this story he really wanted to write, or did you know he had to deliver that moment to take over the franchise?

Alonso: No, it wasn't a matter of us deciding on Xavier's death and then Brian going, "I'll write that!" We were huddling on the sidelines at one of the editorial summits, a small group of us -- Brian, Jason, Matt, Jonathan, Ed, Tom [Brevoort] and Nick [Lowe] and myself -- discussing the architecture of the second act. We'd gotten to the point in the story where the X-Men would make their last-minute appeal to Scott and were deciding who would be there, and that was where Brian convinced us it would be Professor X and Magneto and walked us through the scene beat-by-beat.

We realized that having Scott kill Xavier would a seismic moment -- what's more shocking than a son killing his father? -- that would set up interesting stories for the future. With Professor X dead and Cyclops no longer fit to lead, the X-Men would now have to chart a new course. There would be no going back. There'd be no possibility that Xavier would step forth and say, "Okay, kids. Here's what we're gonna do." What road will the X-Men travel? Well, Xavier may be dead, but I have a feeling he'll cast a wide shadow over the X-Men for years to come as they wrestle with his legacy -- starting with "Uncanny Avengers" #1.

Alonso: Wouldn't you like to know. What fun is a mysterious figure if we tell you who it is?

Champion questioner Spidey616 has had a few queries up of late, including: "With the original Red Skull appearing in Remender's 'Uncanny Avengers' series, what does this mean for the Skull's daughter Sin who's taken up his mantle?"

Alonso: She'll still be around, Spidey, turning up when you least expect her.

-He continues with, "Victoria Hand is character who's been a big part of Bendis' Avengers run starting in Dark Avengers and continuing into the New Avengers relaunch. Can we expect her to still be involved in the Avengers titles once Hickman takes over?"

Alonso: You'll have to wait and see, Spidey! All I can tell you for now is that Victoria plays a crucial part in Brian's final "End Times" storyline in "New Avengers" #31-34!

And finally from Spidey616: Any hints when/if we'll be seeing Coldmoon & Dragonfire, two new characters introduced from last year's Point One issue?

Alonso: Depending on where you live in the world, you may have seen them already, Spidey! Beyond that, all I can say for the moment is keep your eyes peeled!

Have some questions for Marvel's AXEL-IN-CHARGE? Please visit the CUP O' Q&A thread in CBR's Marvel Universe forum. It's now the dedicated thread for all connections between Board Members and the Marvel Executive staff that CBR will pull questions for next week's installment of our weekly fan-generated question-and-answer column! Do it to it!

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